The new Shenandoah Valley Organic packaging plant in Harrisonburg will create 110 new jobs, according to a Tuesday press release from the office of Gov. Ralph Northam.
“We chose Harrisonburg to expand because this community and city is a big part of our success to date,” said Corwin Heatwole, CEO of Shenandoah Valley Organic, in the release. “Our production team and our farmers live here and come with tremendous experience in the poultry industry. We are fortunate to live in the beautiful Valley, but are close to large East Coast markets where organic poultry demand is high.”
The plans for the new SVO plant at 350 Acorn Drive were first obtained by the Daily News-Record on Nov. 19 through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The phase one site plan calls for a 76,000-square-foot, one-story packaging plant in addition to a 3,600-square-foot, single-story water treatment plant.
Phase two — a roughly 53,000-square-foot, one-story facility — is planned adjacent to the southeast of the phase one packaging plant.
The press release did not include a total cost for the development and Kathryn Tuttle, chief marketing officer for SVO, was unable to provide the information Tuesday afternoon.
“Manufacturing is still a significant portion of our tax base and when we see a company willing to make this investment in the city, it’s very encouraging and helpful on many fronts,” said Brian Shull, economic development director for Harrisonburg.
The firm has 500 employees and works with over 60 family farms, according to Northam’s release.
The new hires for the packaging plant will be trained through funding and services of the Virginia Jobs Investment Program.
For years, the city has been preparing for development such as the SVO plant in the Acorn Drive area by improving surrounding roadways, running utility lines and zoning for manufacturing, according to Shull.
“Now it’s ready for this great project,” he said.
Also, per the plans, two new roads will be constructed to reach the facility. One of the roads will connect the facility to Acorn Drive, while another will connect the facility to North Liberty Street.
The project was approved by Northam for $800,000 though a performance-based grant from the Virginia Investment Program and $500,000 from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund, according to the release.
SVO also received the largest Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development grant given — $500,000.
“I commend Shenandoah Valley Organic on the growth and innovation they have brought to Virginia’s poultry industry, the largest sector of the Commonwealth’s largest private industry, [which is] agriculture,” said Bettina Ring, secretary of Agriculture and Forestry. “In 2013, we were proud to help SVO get started with one of our first AFID awards. Today, we are even prouder to support this major expansion with our largest ever AFID award. The partnerships this project highlights, between farmer and processor, as well as the private and public sectors, are great examples of how we can help bring economic vitality and opportunity to all corners of the Commonwealth.”
Shenandoah Valley Organic is a poultry processing firm that has grown considerably since it was started in the city in 2014 by Heatwole, a sixth-generation farmer from Bath County.
SVO’s Harrisonburg facility processed about 20,000 birds a week at the former Pilgrim’s Pride plant when it first opened. In July 2019, Heatwole said the firm was processing about 200,000 birds a week.
“Our business that’s sold through grocery stores is becoming a bigger part of our business and that’s where the packing plant comes in,” Tuttle said.
Last year, the processor became the first in the country to own an automated giblet remover from Dutch-owned American company Meyn and added a new high-speed line.
Earlier this year, the firm purchased two parcels of land adjacent to its site on North Liberty and Massanutten streets in the city to create a secure complex.
On Oct. 29, Organic Plant LLC purchased 36.51 acres of city land, split between two parcels, with the larger portion on Acorn Drive, while another smaller parcel on North Liberty Street, for $1.64 million from Acorn LC.
Organic Plant LLC is a company registered at the same address as the SVO office at 779 Massanutten Street on the north side of the city.
The two parcels both border Rockingham County, where Organic Plant LLC has also purchased land for the development, according to city and county documents.
Though the facility will be just within the city’s boundary, some of the site’s infrastructure, such as the road to North Liberty Street, will cut through some of the adjacent county land owned by the company.
“Shenandoah Valley Organic is a homegrown Virginia company that has thrived in Harrisonburg since its founding in 2014,” said Northam in the release. “As a leading agricultural region, the Shenandoah Valley is a natural fit for a business like SVO that partners with family farms, which remain the backbone of the local economy. This significant expansion speaks forcefully about the Commonwealth’s strong infrastructure, dedicated workforce and bright economic future.”
Last week, Dynamic Aviation in Bridgewater announced its $48 million, three-year expansion that includes the creation of 207 new local jobs, some of which have already been filled, according to Dynamic Aviation staff.
The aviation firm’s expansion included the creation of a 13,000-square-foot space for a composite shop and offices, a 33,000-square-foot hangar and another slightly larger hangar, which is slated for use as a museum, according to Joel Shank, vice president of human resources.